Raising the bar

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposed a rule late last year that would require a more rigorous safety certification process for carriers that are new to the industry. First and foremost, the New Entrant Safety Assurance Process would raise the standard of compliance for passing the safety audit. FMCSA has identified 11 regulations that it believes are essential elements

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposed a rule late last year that would require a more rigorous safety certification process for carriers that are “new to the industry.”

First and foremost, the “New Entrant Safety Assurance Process” would raise the standard of compliance for passing the safety audit.

FMCSA has identified 11 regulations that it believes are essential elements of the safety management controls necessary to operate in interstate commerce. Under the proposed changes, failure to comply with any one of these would result in automatic failure of the new entrant safety audit.

Key elements include:

  • Failure to implement drug/alcohol testing programs;

  • Knowingly using a driver with revoked or suspended driving privileges;

  • Using a physically unqualified driver;

  • Failure to require drivers to maintain hours-of-service logbooks;

  • Operating an out-of-service vehicle prior to correcting noted defects

  • Operating a vehicle without minimum levels of financial responsibility, e.g., commercial auto liability insurance coverage.

The proposal also mandates expedited actions to correct deficiencies if a new entrant carrier is found in violation of certain rules or fails to meet specific safety performance standards during roadside inspections.

For example, expedited action would be mandated for new entrant carriers with driver or vehicle out-of-service rates greater than 50% for any three inspections that occur within 90 days.

Expedited action would include an “as soon as practicable” scheduling of on-site safety audits for carriers that haven't had them. Those who have would need to produce a “certification of defect correction” within 30 days.

FMCSA decided it was necessary to tighten the scrutiny of new carriers after research comparing their safety performance with that of more experienced carriers found that the former had significantly higher crash involvement. In addition, the new entrant carriers had significantly poorer driver safety performance.

Our internal research confirms FMCSA's findings. All too often we find appalling safety gaps when reviewing the safety management systems of new carriers. Sadly, these gaps sometimes lead to serious crashes, injuries and fatalities.

Enhanced oversight of new carriers makes sense from two perspectives. First, many new carriers are unaware of regulatory requirements and/or “best practice” safety management systems. The enhancements will help to provide education, outreach and implementation of core management controls.

Second, these provisions subject them to an 18-month safety-monitoring period. They will undergo a safety audit during this time and roadside crash and inspection information will be closely evaluated. In addition, they will have to demonstrate that they have the necessary systems in place to ensure a basic level of safety performance.

Failure to demonstrate basic safety management controls and roadside safety performance will now result in loss of registration privileges. I urge you to support FMCSA as they implement these important oversight enhancements.


Jim York is the manager of Zurich Service Corp.'s Risk Engineering Transportation Team, based in Schaumburg, IL.

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